Mumm-Ra - These Things Move In Threes
Tim Miller 23/06/2007
It's an ugly word, Mumm-Ra. Ugly to look at, and ugly to say. It sort of appears wrong, a combination of letters that don't sit well next to each other. It even has the look, perhaps, of an awkward, distressing metal band. But all these instantaneous misgivings upon looking at their name shatter into the past 44 seconds into Now or Never, the waltzing opening song on These Things Move In Threes, Mumm-Ra's debut album. Described elsewhere as like “listening to all the music in the world at once”, Mumm-Ra's debut, indeed, couldn't be further from that early uneasiness. James New, a quintessential modern English voice, implores on Now or Never: “If walking back home is the way to my heart/you've taken it over and torn it apart/it's now or never”, a glorious slow-jam chockfull of simmering strings and planetary guitars, and we're well and truly off.
Borrowing a balance of clean, melodic guitar lines and swift beats used so effectively by Bloc Party, the album's title track thrusts forward unstoppably, a tight and tuneful example of how fresh and exciting today's indie can still be, put in the youthful and inventive hands of these five lads. She's Got You High is full of hung-up harmonies, a modern day slice of golden Lightning Seeds-era pop. Meanwhile, former single Out of The Question pits another anthemic, dual-voiced chorus against snippets of twinkling guitars that flit past you almost unnoticed. But this is a record that punches you in the midriff, opens your ears and demands your undivided attention.
It's no surprise to find that Mumm-Ra had been supporting The Killers on their European tour recently. The former take a share of cues from what the latter did so well on Hot Fuss, but Mumm-Ra inject a dosage of indisputable passion into their efforts. The album's epic centrepiece, The Sick Deal, is Killers pomp-rock done properly, a towering inferno of majestic noise. With a crashing chorus, furious lead guitar aided by gorgeous string arrangements and a titanic middle section, The Sick Deal revels in and gorges on its frantic splendour, approaching James Bond theme proportions before breathlessly derailing itself. It is a huge contrast, then, to the next track Light Up The Room, a slow-burner whose heart-shattering chorus weeps under the weight of its own melancholic harmonies.
Elsewhere, the panicked, rushed but still brooding Song B is an impassioned, almost emo-tinged track with desperate vocals and lacerating guitars. Bravely, the song parts in two towards the end, from a chorus whose main point was screaming “I cannot believe you went away” at an unnamed someone, to a trumpet-plagued outro, undoing the serious tones of the first three minutes, staccato drums and vocals suggesting that the initial reaction had given way to one of bitter humour.
Later on in this remarkable debut, Mumm-Ra give way to U2-esque stadium rock, the song Starlight asserting a simple plucked riff that fills massive boots, while their most significant single to date, What Would Steve Do?, revisits the string-laden ground, echoing guitars swinging back and forth before a pinched, disconnected chorus hops out of nowhere and brings Mumm-Ra listeners back down to earth for a moment.
For to get sucked into this album is to look beyond the skies and believe in an unknown and all-powerful force. It's not quite the stuff of the Gods, but it's certainly a sweet, sweet nectar. Mumm-Ra have really achieved something special with this debut: a flawless mix of credible straight-up indie tunes, and powerful, fervent rock songs that soar and burn in the atmosphere. They're even allowed a haunting, post-rock song to finish on, Down Down Down being seven minutes of delicate piano, stuttering drums and fragile drops of guitar. On These Things Move In Threes, Mumm-Ra effortlessly swan through a variety of genres, pitching snatches of guitar melodies with sumptuous orchestral arrangements, hectic indie pace with power-balladry. Forget prickly guitar bands for a moment, and remind yourself just how magnificent music can be.